US 20050135598 A1
An ACD accessory (10) and a GUI accessory (100), which may be integrated into a phone or provided as a separate device, are coupled between the PSTN and the user's legacy phone (12) to provide enhance services. The ACD accessory (10) provides visual display and selection capabilities for menus provided by the ACD system (14). The GUI accessory (100) provides enhance control of telephony features and enhanced data services though a graphical proxy server (134).
1. A device used in connection with a public switched telephone network (PSTN) telephone comprising:
processing circuitry for:
creating a data connection over the PSTN with an automatic call distribution (ACD) system;
sending and receiving data to and from the ACD system; and
displaying information on the display responsive to received data.
2. The device of
3. The device of
4. The device of
5. A device used in connection with a public switched telephone network (PSTN) telephone comprising:
processing circuitry for:
executing a graphical user interface;
creating a data connection over the PSTN with a data server for controlling operation of the graphical user interface; and
sending and receiving data to and from the data server for controlling operation of PSTN telephone features.
6. The device of
7. The device of
8. The device of
9. The device of
10. A system for providing enhanced features to a public switched telephone network (PSTN) telephone comprising:
a device for providing a graphical user interface coupled to the telephone circuitry;
a graphic server for controlling the graphical user interface and providing data for the device; and
a switch for selectively providing a data connection to the graphic server and for providing a voice connection to the PSTN.
11. The system of
12. The system of
13. The system of
14. The system of
1. Technical Field
This invention relates in general to telecommunications and, more particularly, to display accessory for use with a non-graphical phone.
2. Description of the Related Art
Over the last two decades, communications capabilities have increased dramatically. Current communication networks are now capable of providing sophisticated features such as multiple party conferencing with multiple private sidebar conversations, programmable “follow-me” calling, and sophisticated voice mail options. ACD (automatic call distribution) systems, which allow a calling party to direct his or her call based on voice prompts, have reduced the costs of maintaining an in-house switchboard. In addition to voice communications, telephone lines are also used for data communications using modems.
Unfortunately, the main interface to a communication network, the 12-button telephone keypad, has not changed in many years. As a result, some features are seldom used and other features are clumsy to use. In some cases, features can be provisioned by a user through a computer interface apart from the telephone. For example, follow-me calling allows a user to have a single telephone number which is used to access a number of communication devices associated with the user, such as a home telephone number, a work telephone number, a mobile telephone and voice mail, in a specified sequence. The user can define the sequence in which the communication devices are accessed in relation to certain criteria, such as date and time. For example, a user may define a work day sequence where his or her work number is accessed first, a secretarial phone accessed second, a mobile phone accessed third and voice mail accessed fourth; the weekend sequence may be home phone first, mobile phone second and voice mail third. The desired sequence is stored in a database of a network provider. To ease the burden of user programming, some providers have allowed the database to be modified by users through a Web page over an Internet connection. However, use of a separate computer connection is often inconvenient, and Internet provisioning of services can reasonably be used only for certain types of features that do not change often.
Some voice-over-IP (VOIP) phones, such as SIP phones are becoming available with graphical interfaces that simplify use of modern communications features, but mainsteam use of these phones is in the future. For now, the vast majority of communications is performed using the common 12-button telephone, with little or no text or graphics capability.
Accordingly, a need has arisen for a method an apparatus for improving communications using a common 12-button telephone.
In a first aspect of the present invention, a device used in connection with a public switched telephone network (PSTN) telephone includes a display and processing circuitry for creating a data connection over the PSTN with an automatic call distribution (ACD) system. Data is sent and received to and from the ACD system and information is displayed on the display responsive to received data from the ACD.
This aspect of the present invention allows a user to visually navigate ACD menus.
In a second aspect of the present invention, a device used in connection with a public switched telephone network (PSTN) telephone includes a display and processing circuitry. The processing circuitry executes a graphical user interface, creates a data connection over the PSTN with a data server for controlling operation of the graphical user interface; and sends and receives data to and from the data server for controlling operation of PSTN telephone features.
This aspect of the invention allows a user to easily configure PSTN telephone features using a graphical interface over a PSTN connection. The device can also be used to provide information to the user over the data connection and to create analog and digital voice connections.
For a more complete understanding of the present invention, and the advantages thereof, reference is now made to the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
The present invention is best understood in relation to
The black phone 12 is connected to the ACD accessory 10. The ACD accessory 10 is coupled to the PSTN 16 through a normal wall connection (or wireless connection to the wall jack).
In operation, the ACD accessory 10 is used to improve interaction with an ACD system 14. ACD systems 14 are often used by business, and some households, primarily to direct a caller to the desired party through one or more sets of voice prompts. For example, a bank may have a first set of voice prompts, such as these:
Once a number is pressed on the calling party's 12-button keypad, the DTMF tone corresponding to the pressed key is received by the ACD system, and the next action is taken based on the received tone. The input from the calling party could result in, for example, another set of voice prompts for more information, a request for information to be entered via the 12-button keypad, a connection to a telephone extension, or a connection to a pre-recorded voice message.
While ACD systems can greatly reduce the cost of human operators, they can also tend to be frustrating to the calling party for several reasons. First, the voice prompts can be time-consuming and frustrating. Second, if the caller listens to the whole list, it is easy to forget which option was the desired option.
The ACD accessory 10 improves the quality of interaction with an ACD system 14 by providing a visual display which can be used to interact with the ACD system 14. In its simplest form, the ACD accessory 10 visually displays a selection menu corresponding to the voice prompts generated by the ACD system 14 and the user selects from the various options by pressing a key on the 12-button keypad of the black phone 12.
In step 28, the user selects an option from the menu using an input device. One input device could be the 12-button keypad on the phone. A second input device could be a keypad on the ACD accessory 10. The keypad on the ACD accessory could be as simple as up and down cursor keys, or as complex as an alphanumeric keypad. A third input device could be a touch screen for simply touching the desired selection. A fourth input device could be voice recognition technology employed at either the ACD accessory 10 or the ACD system 14.
After an input is entered in step 28, the ACD system 14 can send a signal indicating that it is finished, or send another set of options (or information). If the ACD system sends a signal to return to voice, the black phone 12 is returned to the voice connection.
When an initial connection is made between the ACD accessory 10 and the ACD system 14, data could be passed indicating capabilities of the ACD accessory 10. For example, the graphics capability and input capabilities could be passed to the ACD system, which would vary its menus accordingly. For example,
In operation, the data communication and processing circuitry manages data communication between the ACD accessory 10 and the ACD system 14, and controls the display 40 through the display controller 42. When the data communication and processing circuitry is performing a data communication, the voice pass-through circuitry 46 is disabled, so that the data communication will not be corrupted by sounds entering the phone's microphone. Programs for the data communication and processing circuitry 44 are stored in memory 40, along with internal graphics, as described above. In an actual implementation, the memory may be internal to the processing circuit used in the data communication and processing circuitry 44. Depending upon the configuration, input circuitry 50 may be used to provide user inputs to the data communication processing circuitry 44 or, alternatively, the data communication and processing circuitry 44 may receive all inputs through the keypad of the black phone 12 as DTMF (dual tone multi-frequency) signals.
In order to keep the communications between the ACD accessory 10 and the ACD system 14 as responsive as possible, the preferred embodiment uses a relatively low-speed data connection and a standard protocol that is known to each device, such that the modem circuitry on either side of the data connection uses a minimum of initialization and handshaking to establish the data connection. For example, a 9,600 bps (bits per second) connection can be reliably used with almost all voice lines, including long distance lines, yet is fast enough to quickly communicate text data to the ACD accessory device. By setting a standard speed, the modems on either side of the connection will not need to test communication quality at different speeds, which is time-consuming and noisy.
While the ACD accessory 10 is described in connection with a black phone 12, it could also be used in connection with a SIP phone or similar phone that works over a digital communication link. A SIP phone can communicate with an ACD system 14 directly over a purely digital channel, or it can communicate with an ACD system by way of a PSTN gateway. When used over a PSTN gateway, the ACD accessory will allow visual navigation of the ACD prompts.
In order to work with the ACD accessory 10, the ACD system 12 must also be able to provide data communication over voice lines and must be able to transmit the display information to the ACD accessory 10. Thus, existing ACD systems 12 would need slight modifications to support the ACD accessory 10.
The ACD accessory described above provides significant advantages over the prior art. First, the ACD accessory can be used with any legacy black phone, or with newer phones such as SIP phones, to provide ACD prompts in a visual manner, which is easier and faster than audible prompts. Second, the ACD accessory can enhance ACD prompts by the use of graphics.
A second embodiment of the invention is described in connection with
SIP telephones 118 (or other VoIP phones, such as H.323 phones) and SIP proxy server 119 can be connected directly to the network 110. SIP telephones 118 are intelligent devices that contain processors that are independent from a central switching location (i.e., a central office) and have one or more processors to create, modify and terminate communication sessions.
A trunk gateway 120 provides an interface between the packet network 110 and the PSTN (public switched telephone network) 122.
Softswitches 124, application servers 126 and media servers 128 are instrumental in providing advanced functions. A softswitch 124 is a software-based entity that provides call control functionality. A softswitch 124 may support multiple packet-based protocols, such as SIP, MGCP, MEGACO and multiple telephony and data protocols, such as CAS, INAP, ISDN, SS7, TCAP, TCP/IP. A softswitch 124 may interface with the PSTN 122 through various gateways.
In a SIP environment, a softswitch 124 may act as a SIP proxy server for name resolution and user location—similar to a domain server. In this way, a name (similar to a domain name) can be dynamically associated with a current IP address. Also, a SIP proxy server may be used for redirection of packets, where the proxy server “pretends” to the other network elements that it is the user's SIP terminal and forwards messages to the real SIP terminal (or conceivably to another SIP Proxy).
Application servers 126 provide services that may result in termination of a call, such as voice mail, conference bridging, pre-paid calling, or delivering services and information to an end user. An application server can be coupled to other data networks, such as the Internet, to gain access to information systems.
Media servers 126 provide media processing under control of a media gateway controller (not shown). The media server 126 could provide, for example, voice storage and responses for voice mail, or video streams.
Graphical terminals (described below) 132 communicate with an associated graphical proxy 134 with other SIP phones (and similar VoIP devices) over the network 110 using a graphics protocol between the graphics terminals 132 and the graphical proxy 134, where the graphics protocol controls the GUI of the graphics terminal and provides control information to the graphical proxy 134 regarding a user's actions with the packet phone's GUI. The graphical proxy 134 communicates with other devices over the network using SIP (or similar protocol).
U.S. Ser. No. 10/092,075, referenced above, describes the use of a graphical proxy 134 to control the GUI of a “dumb” packet phone, rather than an “intelligent” SIP phone. Responsive to actions by the user, the graphical proxy sends commands to the dumb packet phone to control the operation of the user interface, as opposed to the SIP phone controlling the user interface internally. This provides a significant advantage over the prior art, since the network provider could control the GUI of the packet telephones to add value to its network services and can improve the consistency of the user interface between phones.
A large class of computing devices could function as a graphics terminal 132, even though these devices do not have the client communication stack normally associated with a packet phone. Mainly, a graphics terminal 132 includes sound and display capabilities, with network communications functionality. Devices of this type would include personal computers (including desktop and portable computers), personal digital assistants (PDAs, including pocket PCs) and so on. It is assumed that these devices include browser software with pluggable and downloadable MACROMEDIA FLASH (or other interactive graphics design software) and have a TCP/IP and RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol) stack.
In operation, the GUI accessory communicates with the graphical proxy server 134 to provide enhanced telephony features to telephone customers with legacy service. These customers include, but are not limited to, customers who cannot receive broadband data connections and therefore cannot practically use a SIP, or similar, device.
One aspect of the graphical proxy 134 of
The terminal management system 142 is responsible for registering the associated graphical terminals 132 with the graphical proxy 134 and then registering on behalf of each associated graphical terminal 132 with the SIP Proxy 119. The terminal management system 142 handles the calls for each associated graphical terminal 132 and interacts with the graphical server 140 to provide a customized GUI for each graphical terminal 132 to display current call status.
The terminal manager 150 manages all the associated graphical terminals 132. When a user starts the FLASH client on a graphical terminal 132, the graphical terminal establishes a connection with the terminal manager 150. The terminal manager 150 then instantiates a terminal controller 156 for that graphical terminal 132 and maintains the mapping between the graphical terminal 132 and the respective terminal controller 150. The terminal manager 150 implements a Super user agent 164, which receives requests for connection for all terminals 132, identifies which terminal is associated with the request, and then passes the request to the user agent 166 (see
By using a Super user agent 164 to receive and send SIP messages to the SIP proxy server 119, only a single port is needed to receive and send messages associated with all terminal controllers. If each user agent was separately registered on behalf of its associated graphical terminal 132, a separate port would be required for each terminal controller.
The call control system 168 handles incoming and outgoing calls for its associated terminal 132 and manages all active calls. It gets information on the incoming messages from the user agent 166 and provides information on user responses back to the user agent. The call control system 168 also generates service requests and sends them to the graphical server 140 to get a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) for an appropriate FLASH page displaying the desired user interface screen.
For example, if there is an incoming call, the call control system 168 generates a request to “show incoming call”. The graphical server 140 then returns the URL of the FLASH page with the display for an incoming call. The incoming call FLASH page may include multiple graphical elements, but will not include specific text relevant to the current call, such as the name of the caller. The call control system 168 assembles the URL and the data that has to be filled in the FLASH page such as the Callers and Callee's name in the form of XML message and passes it to the presentation manager 170. The FLASH client 160 on the associated terminal 132 has a built in XML parser 161; it loads the FLASH page from the given. URL and fills the fields with the data provided in the XML message. The call control system 168 also receives GUI response messages from the terminal 132 through the presentation manager 170 and invokes the translator 154 to parse the XML messages and translate them to JAVA objects that can be used by the call control system 168. The call control system 168 also sends RTP setup and RTP tear down messages to the RTP controller 174 (See
The presentation manager 170 manages the display of its associated terminal 132. The terminal 132 could support several “phone lines”; in other words a single terminal can handle more than one active call at a time. The presentation manager 170 maintains individual folders for different calls. The call control system 168 sends the graphical representation of call status for a particular call to the presentation manager 170. The presentation manager 170 decides where to display this graphical representation. In a preferred embodiment, the presentation manager 170 communicates with the graphical client 160 in FLASH through XML sockets. When the presentation manager 170 of a monitored terminal 132 a receives an XML socket from the monitored terminal 132 a, a copy of the XML socket is sent to the presentation manager 170 associated with the monitoring terminal 132 b.
Referring again to
The graphical server 140 generates the GUI for the terminals 132. For each associated terminal 132, the graphical server queries the database 158 to get the display capabilities of the terminal, such as size of the screen, depth of color etc. These capabilities are provided to the terminal manager 150 by the terminal 132 at the time of registration and stored in the database 158. When the graphical server 140 receives a request for a GUI, it customizes the GUI to the capabilities of the particular terminal. The graphical server 140 includes a GUI generator 146 and a GUI customizer 148.
The GUI generator 146 stores a stack of static FLASH pages. The request parser 144 parses the service requests coming from the terminal controllers 156. Based on the particular service request, the GUI generator returns an appropriate FLASH page URL to the requesting terminal controller 156.
The GUI customizer 148 customizes a selected FLASH page based on the capabilities of the particular graphical terminal 132.
The graphical proxy 134 uses the database 158 (which could be part of the graphical proxy 134 or a separate device) to store user related information. The information stored in the database 158 includes: (1) user name and password of registered users, (2) current IP address of active registered users; (3) display capabilities of different terminals such as size of the screen color depth, etc., (4) media features that the user would like to use for communication with the remote party and (5) telephony features that the user has subscribed to such as Call Forwarding, Conferencing, Breakout room etc.
A graphical client application 160 runs on each terminal 132.
The architecture described in connection with
As an illustration of the operation of the network 108,
The graphic proxy 134 also provides enhanced telephone features to the black phone 12 using the GUI accessory 100 for an improved interface and information display.
The GUI accessory 100 has a basic structure similar to that shown in
Once the connection is established between the GUI accessory 100 and the graphical proxy 134 (specifically, the connection is made with the terminal manager 150), the graphical proxy 134 performs similar steps with regard to the GUI accessory 100 as it does with the graphical terminals 132. The terminal manager 150 instantiates a terminal controller 156 for the GUI accessory 100. The terminal manager 150 also registers the GUI accessory 100 with SIP proxy 119.
Upon start-up, the graphical proxy 134 may fetch information for the GUI accessory, such as the number of messages in the user's voice mailbox, messages in an email account, temperature and weather forecasts, and so on. Some information may be available to the graphical proxy 134 through a TCP/IP connection to Internet sites 113 and other information may be available from a server in a private network using TCP/IP, SIP, or another protocol, such as information on the user's PSTN services (112) or directory services (111). As described above in connection with the graphical terminals 132, information the graphical server 140 prepares the graphics and a URL address is sent to the GUI accessory along with associated text in an XML socket. As the user manipulates the interface on the GUI accessory 100, the XML commands are sent to the presentation manager 170, and actions are taken by the graphical proxy server 134 in response to the commands.
Upon start up, the GUI accessory may show a main menu of the type shown in
In some cases, information could be downloaded during preset periods, without user interaction. For example, the GUI accessory 100 could create a data connection during each night to download information, such as retrieving offline messages (such as email headers), TV listings for the day, and programming updates. If necessary to make a call, the data connection can be broken or put on hold.
The features shown in
This aspect of the present invention provides significant advantages over the prior art. With only a PSTN connection, a user can obtain ease of administration of telephony features and enhanced access to information using a graphical display.
While the preferred embodiment of the invention has been discussed using specific languages and protocols, it would be known to one skilled in the art that alternative languages, application development tools, and protocols could be used in their place for a given implementation. For example, JAVA could be replaced in whole or part by C++ or similar programming environment and SIP could be replaced by H.323.
Although the Detailed Description of the invention has been directed to certain exemplary embodiments, various modifications of these embodiments, as well as alternative embodiments, will be suggested to those skilled in the art. The invention encompasses any modifications or alternative embodiments that fall within the scope of the claims.